Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The pilgrimage has gained momentum

Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox (around whom the whiff of the occult lingers like no other sporting organisation) sits in a pentagle, bordered by five thoroughfares. Van Ness Street runs along the south side of the stadium, diverging slightly from the First Base line within. Banners show the team's retired numbers, alongside Jackie Robinson's 42, in blue relief, on an otherwise featureless facade. A little way along is a bronze statue of Number 9, Ted Williams, caught in a moment of rare condescension with a young fan. Williams has a pained look about him, as if dimly aware of the craziness that awaits him post-mortem.

Any account of a visit to Fenway measures itself against John Updike's classic essay "Hub fans bid Kid Adieu". Updike is one of the great prose artists of the post-war period so you'll get no change out of him. His subject's splendour has been dulled somewhat by the shenanigans of his family and also by the Red Sox' cathartic victory in 2004. Until 2004 Williams was a totem of the team's frustration. A World Series win eluded the team armed with this great weapon; in an era of Free Agents migrating in search of glory and lucre the story of Number 9 playing out his days surrounded by lesser mortals serves as an exemplar of lost loyalty, lost innocence, even. Fittingly, the statue is larger than life.

I walk down Van Ness Street, killing time. A Brasilian kid, five years old, is swinging off his father's arm. He kicks a tennis ball towards me along the pavement. I flick it up with unwonted deftness and hand it to him. His dad, gawping up at the grandstand, lowers his gaze and smiles.

Yawkey Way runs behind home plate. The game doesn't start for another eight hours but here, already, there is a crackle of excitement. The food stands are parked in the shadow of the stadium but gameday papers, programs and every conceivable type of merchandise are being sold by a shaggy flock of vendors. Ambling fans of both teams form a haphazard tricolour of red, white and blue. The Cleveland fans are just barely outnumbered, I notice. There's no reason for the locals to get here quite this early. I manouver my way through the bustle, wearing black, feeling like an impostor.

Things are quieter on Brookline. Aside from overpriced parking and ticket offices some non-Sox related businesses operate here. It's still a little overcast, and if I hadn't seen a forecast I'd expect a thunderstorm later. Ahead and to the right, looking rather like a bus shelter or a Normandy fortification, is the rendezvous: The Cask 'n Flagon. Loitering outside, with the faintly distracted air of a tour guide, is a small, yet Rubenesque woman in dark sunglasses. Cyn. I gather myself for a moment, removing my headphones, then I stroll over and introduce myself.


Anonymous said...


I loved your posts on the recent Hajj to Fenway. It is a delight to have the sights, sounds, and odors (odours?) that we locals take for granted described in such a stylistic and almost romantic way. Too bad about the game last night in Oakland. I don't know how those on GMT can expend the energy to take in the game. Although my nephew in Islington puts in the effort. His arrival in London coincided with the events of October 2004. He did not make a favorable initial impression on his co-workers in The City. He would come into work red-eyed, sleep deprived, and a little rank. He was certain they thought he was a substance abuser.

Phil Cooney

beckperson said...

Most excellent Boston posts, Tom. More?

HorshamScouse said...

'small, yet Rubenesque'

Iain said...

Great post, Tom. The gratuitous, pleasurable loitering in the vicinity of Fenway reminded me of my own two pilgrimages.

Can't wait to read the next instalments.

Beazer said...

//'small, yet Rubenesque'//

Only an Englishman can say "short fat chick" and not offend said short, fat chick.